Maharashtra Assembly Elections: Is Everything Alright Between The BJP And Shiv Sena?

On October 17, 2019, Republic TV aired an opinion poll for Maharashtra and Haryana assemblies that are going to vote on October 21, 2019. ‘Jan ki Baat‘ was the pollster according to whom the BJP might get 58-70 seats in Haryana out of 90 total seats, whereas the Congress might get 12-18 seats. Similarly, in Maharashtra, the BJP might get 142-147 seats whereas its ally Shiv Sena may get 83-85 seats out of 288 seats. The Congress-NCP coalition might be limited to 48-52 seats.

As per the ABP News-CVoter opinion poll, BJP-SS in Maharashtra is likely to win 194 seats whereas Congress-NCP likely to win 86 seats. In Haryana, BJP likely to sweep the state winning 83 seats whereas the Congress could be limited to just 3 seats.

Some other opinion polls also predict similarly, giving BJP and NDA a huge lead in both the states. In this article I wrote, I too analysed differently, citing that even if the BJP loses 10-15% vote share compared to the 2019 Lok Sabha vote share in the state, they will still be able to retain power in Haryana. Thus, it’s safe to assume that BJP is going to retain Haryana safely although the degree of the majority will only be known on counting day.

The point is, can we say that the BJP-SS will too win Maharashtra, confidently? If we go by the opinion polls, then not only will the BJP-SS retains power in Maharashtra but also as per the ‘Jan ki Baat’ opinion poll, the BJP alone is likely to get a simple majority. But, is the Maharashtra polity that simple?

Some four months ago, I suggested that there be an agreement between the BJP and the Shiv Sena on seat sharing and the post of CM and that they contest as an alliance so as to retain power. Exactly that happened, the seats sharing formula was finalised and Shiv Sena agreed to be junior partner contesting in just 124 seats out of 244 seats, leaving the rest to the BJP.

Even Amit Shah declared in front of the Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray that Devendra Fadnavis will be the Chief Ministerial face of the BJP-SS coalition. That means there shouldn’t be any problem for BJP-SS to win the election.

But then, I couldn’t find myself confident on this development as the Maharashtra polity is not so simple. There is something that came up surprisingly. Question number one is how did the Shiv Sena agree to contest just 124 seats being a junior partner? It’s contrary to the attitude of Shiv Sena. Till the declaration of seat-sharing, Sanjay Rout of Shiv Sena claimed that the “Shiv Sena will always remain big brother in Maharashtra polity.”

Then, the Shiv Sena decided to make a Thackeray family member, Aditya Thackeray, contest the election. This is the first time a Thackeray family member will be contesting an election. The surprises are not limited to that! Shiv Sena’s posters said “Salam Worli,” “Kem Cho Worli.” Such slogans are a U-turn from their Hindutva and Maratha politics. Then, Aditya Thackeray sported a lungi, contradicting their previous politics against migrant South Indians.

Now, just revisit the above paragraph. The Shiv Sena is breaking all its firmly held ideologies. It has accepted to be a junior fiddle to BJP without any confrontation. It has started appeasing minority communities. It has also started appeasing the non-Marathi migrants (Gujarati, South Indians and even north Indians). The question is whether there’s a real change of heart for the Shiv Sena or is there a specific design behind it? This question stopped me from writing a preview analysis. But now, I think I have finally got a breakthrough in the complicated Maharashtra politics.

I am not repeating the demography, vote share, etc. as those are present in my previous article above. I will just try to decode the great Shiv Sena design. Let’s find some uncomfortable signs for the coalition. Every member of Shiv Sena is claiming that a Shiv Sainik will be the CM. Even Uddhav Thackeray is referring to his vow to Balasaheb Thackeray to have a Shiv Sena CM.

Aditya Thackeray is already projected as the CM face of Shiv Sena. This is clearly in contradiction to the BJP’s pitch, i.e. Devendra Fadnavis. The Shiv Sena openly opposed Narayan Rane’s merger into the BJP whereas the BJP opposed the inclusion of some Congress leaders into Shiv Sena.

The above indicates that at ground level things are not so rosy for the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance. In such a situation, political sabotage can’t be ruled out. BJP president Amit Shah’s assertion that BJP alone could get simple majority is considered a veiled message to Shiv Sena, should the latter decide to sabotage. All these things combined do not give a bright picture.

Thus, it’s not possible to predict what the result will be. The NCP-Congress alliance is definitely down, but not out at all. Together, they command nearly a 30-35% vote share. Thus, if there really was sabotage in the NDA alliance, who knows what would happen?

But then the question arises: even if the result is in favour of the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance, will the coalition last? There could be three scenarios.

First, the BJP alone gets majority. After some months, the Shiv Sena will prefer to sit in opposition, because the BJP getting majority alone also means Congress-NCP are to be decimated. Thus, Shiv Sena will aspire to take the non-BJP space in the state to make itself credible.

In the second scenario, BJP-Shiv Sena gets a majority, but the BJP alone is short of a majority. I won’t be surprised if there is a  Shiv Sena CM supported by the Congress and NCP from the outside. The excuse for the NCP-Congress would be the Shiv Sena’s change of heart, thus stopping the BJP from getting absolute power.

The third scenario is, because of mutual sabotaging, the Congress-NCP returns to power. In Indian polity, strange things happen frequently. The Congress’ return in Chhattisgarh and the BJP winning Tripura and Haryana assembly without any base in previous elections are apt examples.

The bottom line is, whatever may be the result of the Maharashtra assembly elections, I don’t see the association of the BJP and Shiv Sena lasting longer than needed. Maybe the Shiv Sena’s carefully carved design is exactly that.

Without an alliance with the BJP, they would be isolated. Thus, they will use the BJP but at an opportune time, take necessary action to achieve their ultimate goal which is a CM post. Let us wait and watch how things unfold in the next few weeks.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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